Woman shares her match story

Published 10:15 am Monday, May 3, 2010

When Clarks Grove resident Laura Knudsen learned she had acute myeloid leukemia, her siblings were tested to determine if they would be a good match for a stem cell transplant. They were not.

So a search of the National Marrow Donor Program began. Three potential donors underwent testing and a 23-year-old woman was deemed a match on 10 of 10 points.

“We were so happy when she said yes,” said Knudsen. “I had tears in my eyes.”

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Knudsen will check into the hospital in Rochester on Mother’s Day and receive two days of chemotherapy. On the next three days, May 11, 12 and 13, she will receive 40 minutes of total-body radiation twice a day. On May 14, she’ll receive her stem cell transplant.

After that, Knudsen will stay in the Gift of Life Transplant House for up to 100 days, depending on how her blood tests. She may need transfusions during that time.

Local residents will have the opportunity become potential donors for others like Knudsen at Tuesday’s Red Cross Bloodmobile at Northbridge Mall. The bloodmobile runs from 1 to 6 p.m. and a representative from bethematch.com will be on hand to answer questions. Those who are interested and meet age, health and weight requirements can complete a registration form with health history and give a swab of cheek cells so tissue type can be identified.

Knudsen’s daughter, Brianna, plays volleyball with the organizer of Tuesday’s blood drive, Maddi Dickey, so Dickey was instrumental in bringing the Be The Match Registry to Albert Lea.

Knudsen initially had a bad cough and cold in November of 2009. The cold wouldn’t go away, she said, then in January, she had the flu. She said her heart was racing and she was incredibly tired. “I thought there was something wrong with my heart,” she said.

She went to Albert Lea Medical Center’s emergency room, where she was found to be severely anemic. She was then sent to Dr. Dieter Heinz, who ordered a CT scan of her abdomen and pelvic area.

“He knew something was wrong,” Knudsen said. “He thought maybe I was bleeding somewhere.”

When the scan was inconclusive, Knudsen was sent to the Mayo Clinic, where there were more tests, including a bone marrow biopsy. She was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, which she was told could quickly become acute myeloid leukemia, which it did.

She then learned she would need the stem cell transplant.

She said while her stem cell transplant is not as invasive as a bone marrow transplant, the donor still needs to get injections so her body will over-produce its stem cells. When they overproduce, the cells leak into her bloodstream. They’ll then be separated from the rest of the donor’s blood so they can be given to Knudsen.

“She may have some achiness,” Knudsen said of her donor. “It’s time and it’s a sacrifice.”

Knudsen said knows in her heart she would never be making it through this ordeal without her faith and the support of her family, friends and so many prayers. In addition to Brianna, she and her husband, Reid, have a son, Jordan, attending Northwestern College in St. Paul, and a daughter, Alysha, who lives at home and attends Riverland Community College and takes online classes.

She hasn’t been able to work since March, and her brother-in-law, with help from the Church of Christ, are organizing a benefit for her on July 10.